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San Antonio Probate Blog

Blended families, unequal distribution may cause probate issues

Many Texas families have complex elements to them. Some parents may be married while others never tied the knot or opted to divorce. Some families may have biological children and grandchildren, and others may be blended together after previous relationships ended. Families are families no matter what they look like, and it is important that people consider their families and the complexities they may face during probate.

When families are blended, it is important not to make assumptions regarding what the children may inherit from their other parents. If a parent leaves less of his or her estate to children from a previous marriage than the children from the current marriage, a serious dispute could arise. Even if the parent thinks he or she is being fair because the children will receive an inheritance from their other parent, that may not be the case.

Do you believe an executor has breached the fiduciary duty?

Many Texans feel helpless after the death of a loved one. While working through your grief, you and many others likely also have questions about what will happen to your family member's remaining assets. In a best-case scenario, the decedent will have created an estate plan to address such matters. In a worst-case scenario, the executor of the estate will not follow those wishes or will otherwise not complete the probate process correctly.

You may not know a substantial amount about probate proceedings, but your loved one may have made certain wishes known before his or her death -- and not just in the estate planning documents. As a result, when the executor does not seem to carry out those wishes, you may have understandable concerns.

Probate litigation case over inheritance being appealed

After the loss of a loved one, it is not unusual for surviving family members in Texas to believe that they will inherit assets from his or her estate. However, it may come as a shock to some to learn that they were disinherited. While some individuals do choose to disinherit family members for various reasons, some parties may believe that the outcome came about unjustly and that probate litigation may be necessary to address the issue.

One man in another state is currently trying to address such a case. According to reports, the man had apparently expected to inherit certain real estate after his mother passed away. However, while she was still alive, his mother apparently created a transfer-on-death deed that declaring the man's ex-wife should obtain the property.

2nd marriages mean revisiting estate planning

When a first marriage does not work out, some people may worry that they will never find love again. However, numerous individuals in Texas and across the country do end up marrying again. When this happens, it is not only wise to consider who the marriage will impact at the present, but also how it might affect estate planning information.

Creating an estate plan is important for any adult, and some individuals likely already have a plan in place before tying the knot for a second time. This means that those pre-existing plans will need updating. If an estate plan has not already been made, a good place to start the planning process may be to discuss the possible decisions with the family. Second marriages and estate plans may mean considering children from previous relationships, stepchildren, obligations dictated in divorce orders and other factors.

Resentment and favoritism may contribute to probate litigation

Most Texas parents want to take steps to help their children feel as equal as possible. Of course, even with the parents' best efforts, some children may still feel as if they got the short end of the stick on many occasions. If parents do not discuss their estate plans with their kids before their deaths, the children may be left with hard feelings that they may want to address through probate litigation.

A major issue that could lead to hard feelings is if a parent chooses a person to act as executor of the estate who may not be the right fit. The parent may think that he or she should choose the firstborn child because it would be fair, but another child may have the detail-oriented mindset or even professional skills that would be valuable during probate proceedings. The skilled child may think that he or she should have been chosen, which could cause resentment, and if the firstborn does not handle probate well, mistakes could lead to further conflict.

Probate can come with many fees to address

Handling another person's affairs can be a complex matter. After a loved one's death, the executor of a Texas estate must address a number of final affairs and ensure that the estate closes in the correct manner. During the probate process, the executor also has the obligation of making sure that the necessary fees are paid.

Though the executor has this obligation, he or she does not have to cover the fees out of pocket. Instead, the remaining funds of the estate are used to address these costs. Probate is a common process, but it is not necessarily cost-efficient. There are a number of fees that need addressing, and while not all are required in every case, they can still reduce the remaining estate.

Handling probate entitles the executor to a fee

Probate is a long and difficult process. Even simple estates can face complications that can take a significant amount of time to address. If your loved one's estate is complex, or you have to handle family disputes over assets or information, your work as executor may become even more trying.

You undoubtedly want to do your job as executor well because you know how important it is to settle your loved one's final affairs correctly. Unfortunately, you may not receive many thanks during this time because other people either will not realize how hard you have to work or will focus more on trying to get what they want. However, as executor, you are likely entitled to compensation.

Obtaining values, handling debt are financial aspects of probate

When a person is named executor of a Texas estate, that individual generally wants to make sure that he or she does a good job with closing the estate. While this desire is important, it is also wise to make sure that the proper steps are taken to avoid mistakes during the process. After all, probate proceedings take a considerable amount of work.

Once the proper paperwork has been filed with the court and the process opened, the executor will need to obtain valuations of the deceased's assets. Typically, the inventory of assets and their valuations need to be filed with the court within 30 to 90 days after the probate proceedings were opened with the court. Some assets may need to be appraised by professionals in order to determine their value.

Outstanding debt needs addressing during probate

When closing a Texas resident's estate, there are many financial issues that need addressing. For instance, if an individual had outstanding debt, the executor of the estate would need to handle that debt during the probate process. The payment of outstanding balances does depend on the type of debt. 

During probate, most debts will have an order of priority that will need to be followed. Some unsecured debts, like credit card debt, rank lower than secured debt, and as a result, unsecured debt that does not have a co-signer may not be paid in full. However, if a person wanted to leave a home or vehicle to a surviving loved one and there was still a balance on the mortgage or vehicle loan, the heir would need to take over those payments, if possible.

Death during the holidays means having to address final affairs

Though many Texas residents hope that the holiday season will be a time a joy, that is not always the case. Families can lose loved ones at any point of the year, and a death in the family during the holidays may seem even more harrowing. Still, there is much to do after such an event when it comes to addressing the person's final affairs.

Though undoubtedly grieving, family members still need to make sure that they take the right steps during this time. Funeral arrangements are needed, which can be emotionally taxing, especially if the deceased did not make arrangements ahead of time. After these plans have been handled, it is important that estate planning documents, like the will, are located. These documents will hold valuable information for the tasks ahead.

Aldrich Law Firm, PLLC

Aldrich Law Firm, PLLC
909 NE Loop 410
Suite 602
San Antonio, TX 78209

Phone: 210-418-1150
Fax: 210-598-7221

909 NE Loop 410 Suite 602
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